Posted inViewpoint For 5G and Electoral Act, two important days in 2022

There was a seeming
deconstruction of reality last week. The second winner at the 5G auction, Mafab Communications Ltd, made payment of the balance of the $273.6m licence fee on deadline day, February 24, 2022, thus completing the allegory of a David taking Goliath down with just an ordinary stone from a sling.

In plain terms Mafab wrecked every expectation of impossibility as a rookie player by doing the nigh impossible in a field where even giants stayed with their inner cautionary voices. 


A few hours later, the people’s will prevailed as President Muhammadu Buhari signed the amended Electoral Bill into Law. The politicians have been forced to accommodate technology in the nation’s election system which they had earlier bluntly refused, holding on to straws as they journeyed to the past.

There was outrage which overwhelmed their political craftiness and personal greed. They had to eat their shame and listen to the people.

READ ALSO: 5G: NCC may roll out 3 additional licences before 2024 – Danbatta

On the above, this administration has earned a perfect score within hours as the President can at least point to something elevating, a rare feature in a country where nearly everything is on a downward spiral.

For instance, the nation’s power sector is challenged extensively, and nobody is saying anything. To add more pain to that crippling difficulty, the fuel queues have returned as a crowning shame to the importation of bad fuel for which nobody will be punished.

Impunity has weight and space in this administration and those who fought for power are unable to apply it to resolve problems, except to wear the appurtenances of its glory.

I am of the opinion here that the conclusion of the 5G auction process and the signing of the amended Electoral Bill are good signs that our humanity as a people is not totally interred yet.

It is a welcome development that INEC would not have to consult with the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, to determine if there was enough digital capacity in an environment for election results to be transmitted electronically.

The President’s pen carries punch. From February 25, 2022, INEC has been empowered by law to ensure that votes count and taken through secure electronic channels.

I am happy the President has signed his way into glory, at least, for once. There will always be a nexus between telecommunications and every other sector of the economy or the entire fabric of the nation’s socio-political system.

With 5G, life will be transformed and transactions supremely influenced. This is why we cry for the telecoms sector not to be unduly adulterated by political viruses.  One can, therefore, understand the excitement last Thursday when the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, Prof Umar Garba Danbatta, announced a final closure to the exercise which began December 13, 2021.

The auction money was in government’s vault, waiting for the kind of justice that happens to every money that goes into the Federation Account. “I wish to
officially announce that NCC has received and confirmed payments from MTN and Mafab for their acquisition of one slot of 100Mhz each in the 3.5Ghz spectrum auction, which was successfully conducted by the Commission on December 13, 2021.

They both met the deadline of February 24, 2022 as set by the Commission,” Danbatta informed.

Good news can come like a flash of light in the heart of darkness. To millions of people stranded on the roadside and thousands on fuel queues, or yet for several millions of people across the nation running for cover from an undeclared war, this piece of information will have little meaning.

Yet it is good execution of processes like this that helps in building better life for the generality of the people. Unfortunately, successive governments have mismanaged most of our opportunities.

But this is Danbatta’s day and we must listen to him. “Arising from this and on behalf of the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, the Board and Management of the NCC, I wish to congratulate the MTN and Mafab for this feat, as we look forward to
accomplishing other deployment timelines in the 5G deployment roadmap, as articulated in the National Policy on 5G Networks for Nigeria’s Digital Economy,” he stated.

This is where the real work begins: the rollout stage, time to demonstrate the real tech and financial capacity that constitute the enigmatic content of the big and the rookie operator. No insults intended here because it will really be inappropriate to weigh Mafab and MTN on the same scale, only if for the sheer reason that while the latter has operational experiences across Africa and other nations of the world, Mafab is only readying to break out of its cocoon. MTN actually paid nearly $16m to secure a preferred band.

This writer is mindful of the words of the EVC that “we look forward to accomplishing other deployment timelines in the 5G deployment roadmap, as articulated in the National Policy on 5G Networks for Nigeria’s Digital Economy”. Much as we support this idea to the hilt, we want to recall again that there are aspects of the policy that may encumber the rollout plans of the operators. There are some personal
concerns and selfish details expressed in the policy that may not support the business projections of the 5G operators.

Thankfully, government is promising to support their rollout efforts with good enabling environment for their operations. This is well said because rollout is going to be expensive and challenging.

This is the more reason the NCC should allow the operators to roll out as per their business plans instead of directing them on places to commence services. Rollout dates and targets should take precedence over cities and states of service deployment.

I already observed that service deployment will be expensive and challenging. For this reason, I want to suggest that Mafab, which is proving to be a giant killer, should be given some tax holiday when it commences services.

The young organisation will need every support and encouragement to survive in a new terrain. I will go a step further to add that MTN’s investment in 5G be considered for tax rebate as well.

My thinking is that the advantages of, and opportunities from 5G are so multifarious and overwhelming that the regulator must deploy every trick in the regulatory books to escalate the progress and success of the operators who are bold enough to plow in investment to introduce life-changing niche technology to the country. Yes. More housekeeping is needed to regulate the telecommunications industry with a view to providing a better and more protective business environment to those with the large hearts to bring in new funds.  All the same, congratulations are in order for the NCC and also the Nigerian President who signed his way into the history books last week


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